By GARY POPP
UTICA — “I would rather be safe than sorry.”
That is the phrase Tony Johnson had more than 100 people say twice in unison during a gun safety seminar Saturday at the Clark County Casting and Conservation Club.
Johnson, of Utica, is a long-time member of the organization and emceed the hour-long meeting.
In the midst of the debate over firearm regulations taking place in Washington, D.C. that is saturating national media, Johnson said it seemed appropriate to take a step away from the politics and focus on educating area youth on firearm safety.
“We had a lot of young people here. They are the people who should start out learning about guns and gun safety,” Johnson said. “It is a big topic right now, and we just want to promote gun-safety awareness.”
Johnson opened the seminar with a PowerPoint presentation on gun-safety basics. The tips provided during the presentation included keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot the firearm, always pointing the firearm in a safe direction, and never examining a loaded firearm by looking down its barrel.
While the suggestions may seem obvious to any gun user, Johnson said practicing gun-safety basics can be a matter of life and death.
“It can save your life and it can save your kids’ lives,” Johnson said gun-safety of awareness.
Following the PowerPoint presentation, several guest speakers addressed the audience, a mix of men, women and children.
Ricky Ferree, a manager at Lewis and Clark Gun Range in Utica, was asked by the club to share safety tips and talk about the importance of using gun-safety accessories, including safety glasses and ear protection.
“Safety is a thing that needs to be addressed at all ages, and all people need to know about it that have guns,” Ferree said.
He said that as a child, he and other kids had once found a gun and one of the other boys started playing with it and — not realizing the firearm was loaded — accidentally shot out a window. He said that close call inspires him to teach others about safety.
“Maybe I can give back to these young guys and kids and will help them not be shot or [become a statistic],” Ferree said.
Ferree also took time to speak about the importance of using trigger locks on firearms.
Johnson shared a story with the crowd about when his grandchildren became old enough to run around his home and he made sure to put trigger locks on all his firearms they could come in contact with.
Speakers at the seminar also included conservation officers with Indiana Department of Natural Resources and deputies with Clark County Sheriff's Office.
The lawmen answered questions from those in attendance about the legalities of purchasing firearms, obtaining different types of permits and what you should tell an officer if you are stopped with a firearm in your vehicle.
Sgt. Dave Tenney and Maj. Chuck Adams of the Clark County Sheriff's Office both took questions.
“[Gun-safety events are important] so the public knows the safety of the firearms they are using and to make sure there are no accidental discharges or accidental shootings, especially in homes with children,” Tenney said.
Tenney, a firearms instructor with the sheriff's office, said gun-safety awareness is important for all gun users, from novice on up to the veteran gun owner.
“We at the sheriff's office train religiously with a lot of things we have gone though over and over,” he said. “It is still important and reiterates to us of the safety and refreshes our memory of what we need to do.”
Johnson said the lawmen added an extra element to the seminar and that he was appreciative they shared their expertise.
“They did a great job,” Johnson said of the lawmen who took questions from audience. “I can't thank them enough.”
Tim Cook, of Jeffersonville, attended the seminar with his three boys, ages 7, 8 and 10.
“There no such thing as gun control — it's gun education,” he said. “We have three smaller boys, so we wanted them to be educated as soon as possible.”
Cook said the seminar provided useful information, but that he also takes steps at his home to promote gun safety.
“We have given the boys safety [information] about the guns we have in the house just so that they see what they are and they are not as curious if they already know what it is.”
Clark County resident Harvey Gruenwald said he owns firearms for personal defense and said he came to the seminar because he feels the more you know about gun safety, the better.
“Learning is always something valuable,” he said. “You can always pick up something.”